“You may have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.”
The music from an old Brazilian CD wings me across the skies and back to the years we lived in the interior of the State of São Paulo. When I write “we” I refer to Doris and myself, our baby Monica and our son Vernon who was born there. What is the power of this music that takes me back to the fields of coffee? What is this music that transports me to where we raised of our children and did our work as missionaries?
This music I hear is known as caipira music—the folk music of the people who have suffered and loved as they worked to make Brazil what it is today. The dictionary announces that caipira means hillbilly. But it is nothing of the sort for you’ll never hear an accordion, guitars and other instruments played with more skill anywhere in this world. The CD features a men’s duet with a tenor leading the smooth harmony. These ballads are often fashioned out of life’s heartaches and sung by the people in all of Brazil’s interior. The songs speak of life’s romances and heartaches, the experiences of many folks that we knew. Folk music best describe it.
This young lady and family worked the coffee fields. My, how the three sisters in this family could sing not only the “caipira” songs but the hymns of the church.
This CD has to do with romance and young love. But it is so different from the love now sung here in popular music. At that time in Brazil romancing was done over the gate at the front of the girl’s house. Anything more than that and a chaperone went along. One song title is: “As time goes by, I love you more.” Others: “The simplest word is, I love you,” and “A wounded heart.”
So why does this move me so deeply? Just this—these are the people our family lived with and loved. As I listen I blink to keep the pieces of our past lives from speaking through my eyes. I see the maid that we trusted; she who took our blond baby girl across the fields to visit her family. I see Guilherme who owned a rice cleaning business and who after he gave his heart to Jesus wondered if he could stay in business without a little cheating. I see a couple from a coffee farm that with a large family lived in poverty. Since they wished to be baptized the folks from our small congregation raised the money for their civil wedding. That document was necessary as a witness to their faith—a baptism in the stream, Barra Dourada that was not far from where we lived.
A baptism with Rev. Campbell in the Barra Dourada stream.
But the most pungent saudades, the nostalgia from those days are embedded deeply in a book, the Cantor Cristão. It is the little hymnal that we sang from in our congregations and from which our quartet sang. A quartet? It was made up of Rev. Murdo Campbel and Isabel with Doris and I. Those were times full of God’s grace. In my mind I hear the harmony of the music and the Gospel message embedded in those songs. Those songs built our own faith and those of the congregation. Some of those songs I cannot sing for they move me too deeply. Memories! The Campbells were older than us and were in many ways like supportive parents.
Our quartet: Murdo & Isabel, Doris and myself with Monica.
On the inside of the cover of my Cantor Cristão are the numbers of hymns sung at different services but at the top is a note, “bells.” That meant that Doris played the cow bells for a service. On the back flyleaf is a note in Doris’ handwriting that no doubt she showed me during the service, “Visitors to sign the guest book at the door.” In Doris’ hymnal in her handwriting is a translation into Portuguese of “The Old Rugged Cross” and on another flyleaf “The Garden of Prayer.” And yet on another leaf in English this time are the words of the song, “Go ye into all the world.” Yes, we were there doing our best to obey the Lord’s command.
One gospel song we sang as a quartet is Christo te Chama—we know it as, “Calling To-day.” One verse is, “Jesus is calling the weary to rest, calling to-day, calling to-day. Bring him thy burden and thou shalt be blessed, he will not turn thee away.”
What a wonderful comfort to us during our time in Brazil and as well it offers courage and strength to every follower of Jesus. Yes, it is offered now to you as you read this.